Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama focuses on the fate of a young girl from a poor rural farming family. The story opens in 1919 with the birth of a fifth daughter for Ya-Sung who had hoped desperately to give her husband Pao Chung the son he desired, a son to carry on the family name and help run the farm. It was not to be. Only two of their daughters would survive; Li, quiet and dutiful, and Pei, curious and rambunctious. The family was very poor, this year’s drought meant their mulberry bush-es would not be generous and there would be few fish in their fish farm. Something must be done if they were to survive. Pao Chung consulted the village fortune teller, the old man predicted marriage for Li but was uncertain about Pei’s fate. This decided Pao to deliver Pei to the silk factory some distance from their village, where she could labor and send home money to help her family. At first Pei is devastated by being abandoned, alone in this far city to toil away from her family. Soon she forges friend-ships with the other silk workers and Auntie Yee who runs the house where they live. The story goes from 1919 to 1938, progressing from Pei’s first days as a silk worker, through the strong bond of the sisterhood they form, to the invasion of China by the Japanese. The sequel, The Lan-guage of Threads, continues the story as Pei settles in Hong Kong.— Deon Stonehouse
In Women of the Silk Gail Tsukiyama takes her readers back to rural China in 1926, where a group of women forge a sisterhood amidst the reeling machines that reverberate and clamor in a vast silk factory from dawn to dusk.
Leading the first strike the village has ever seen, the young women use the strength of their ambition, dreams, and friendship to achieve the freedom they could never have hoped for on their own. Tsukiyama's graceful prose weaves the details of "the silk work" and Chinese village life into a story of courage and strength.
About the Author
Born to a Chinese mother and a Japanese father in San Francisco, Gail Tsukiyama now lives in El Cerrito, California. Her novels include Dreaming Water, The Language of Threads, The Samurai's Garden, and Night of Many Dreams.
“Enlivened with an engrossing richness of detail, Women of the Silk provides a revealing look at the life and customs of China . . . succinct and delicate.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Evocative . . . warm-hearted.” —Washington Post Book World
“A soft ring of feminism . . . languorous, almost dreamlike quality.” —Booklist
“One of the lovliest first novels published this year.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A first novel exceptional for its exquisite writing and for its rich portrait of a woman's life in a China now lost. Her story is rendered with exceptional grace, with the clear, shining dignity of legend or song; Tsukiyama lends her voice to figures of women emboldened by their dream of growth and personal power.” —Ingram